Dinosaurs past and present (2)

You can read my first post about the book here. I ended up giving it three stars on goodreads. I’m closer to two stars than four. It’s an old book, and although this ads to the reading experience at some points (see also some of the quotes below) it subtracts elsewhere. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was okay and at times somewhat interesting. Some quotes from the last half of the book:

“Failure to recognize the full potential of trackways and track sites has frequently been a contributing factor in the proliferation of incorrect reconstructions of dinosaur activity. Even where good trackway evidence existed and was well known the interpretation rarely was adequate. For example, the Texan track sites reviewed here tell us that sauropods did not drag their tails, yet probably ninety-nine percent of all sauropod reconstructions made in the last fifty years have suggested that they did.”

“The widely debated issue of dinosaur endothermy and ectothermy has a direct bearing on the question of whether smaller dinosaurs like dromacosaurids or hypsilophodontids should be shown with an outer insulating fur or featherlike pelt. To date no direct evidence exists that any known dinosaur had such a covering…” (As many of you would probably know, we do have such evidence today. See e.g. this and this.)

“Until recently most restored dinosaurs were either drab gray, drab brown, or drab green. The assumption was that since the actual colors were unknown, these were “safe” colors. […] At present there is no proof for pattern or colors in dinosaurs. Considering the likelihood that their lives were governed by the same behavioral principles as modern vertebrates, it seems probable that most of these animals may have had patterns and colors of almost any kind rather than being drab and patternless. […] most baby dinosaurs would almost certainly have needed cryptic markings to help them hide from predators.”

“[A] fascinating possibility would be to re-create as a computer-animated simulation an event like the Glen Rose Sauropod Migration or Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede from Australia described by Thulborn and Wade (1979). To do so a map of the trackway assemblage would be recorded on a data tablet and programmed as a perspective view on a computer screen. Since the size, depth, and angle of the tracks can often furnish information about the size, weight, and approximate speed of an animal, the data from a single indivdual’s footprints, if these could be isolated, could be used to construct and program dinosaur images that would fit the size of each set of tracks. Combined with texture mapping and shading techniques, these images could be animated to show the sauropod herd migrating from a moving “camera-eye” vantage point in a simulated Jurassic landscape.” (…just 6 years later people could watch Jurassic Park in movie theatres around the world – I know this was not what the author had in mind, but…)

“During the Mesozoic era herbaceous plants were less abundant than they are now. Larger plants produce less new growth in proportion to their weight than do herbs. Plant biomass must therefore have been more highly visible in dinosaurian landscapes and imparted much “character” to ancient terrestrial ecosystems. Complete plants are seldom found in the fossil record, and whole-plant restorations are rarely made. It is thus very difficult to estimate the appearance of ancient plantscapes.”

“Relative to six other international groups (Hoffman and Nitecki 1985), vertebrate paleontologists are the least supportive of the asteroid-impact hypothesis and the most confident that there was not a Cretaceous mass extinction. In a survey taken during the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings in the fall of 1985 (Browne 1985), twenty-seven percent of the respondents saw no evidence for a mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous and forty-three percent believed that the approximately coincidental impact of an asteroid did not cause the extinctions. […] The point of view I hold cannot have been popular, for only four percent of the respondents at the 1985 meeting (I was unable to attend) felt that an asteroid impact resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

In case some of you have a desire to read a little more about ‘this kind of stuff’, I’ve posted a few links below:

Petrified Forest National Park (featured wikipedia article).

September 29, 2013 - Posted by | biology, books, Paleontology

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